Last night I was sitting happily on my sofa watching the Washington Redskin’s play a fine game of pre-season football. I was cheering, shouting and rooting my beloved Redskins on to victory. I was having a great time eating my homemade nachos, slurping down diet coke and chanting “Hail to the Redskins”. Suddenly, without warning, my balloon of happiness was popped, just as if someone threw a fiery dart causing a deep puncture.
“Do you have a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living? Have they been a victim of elder abuse? The law firm of……can help. We prosecute those responsible for the neglect of your loved one to the fullest extent of the law. Call now for your free consultation. Bed sores, poor dental care that has led to a preventable disease, skin rashes, poor hygiene; these are just a few of the types of abuse and neglect cases we pursue. Call now if you have a loved on in an assisted living, nursing home or memory care facility. Call us at…for your free consultation. You pay nothing until a settlement is reached. Call now.”
The commercial pitch man spoke with a tone of urgency and concern. I felt him reaching through the television, grabbing my cell phone, dialing the number with his hands shaking and placing it to my ear. It was THAT urgent that I call now.
I sat there thinking about my 25 year career, my reputation as an administrator. I thought about “poor hygiene”. I thought about “preventable disease”. I thought about impaired skin integrity. I thought about jail. Prison. Big House. My mind’s eye placed me in the TV Show “Orange is the New Black” where I had become a gang leader inside of the Women’s Federal Prison. I was covered in gang tattoos, wearing the orange jumpsuit with the sleeves rolled up to be a muscle shirt. I was in the Big House with killers and gangsters. I was there with them for…..poor hygiene of a dementia care resident.
Snapping out of my ” Deadly Women trance”, I realized I had missed the Redskins touchdown. I realized my German Shepherd had finished eating my nachos. My dachshund was licking the top of the coke can. My happiness had been replaced with fear.
Nursing Home abuse is indeed a very real, scary thing that DOES happen all across the world. I am certainly not making light of this situation with this blog. I am an advocate of the elderly, disabled and infirmed. I have dedicated my life and my career to ensure quality care for those in my care. I have a zero-tolerance for any type of abuse whether it be mental, physical, sexual, or verbal. However, if you have ever walked the halls of a dementia care facility while observing the behaviors of dementia patients, who fight tooth and nail at the staff; who spit in the faces of the caregiver, I think you might re-think “preventable disease” as a form of neglect.
Poor dental hygiene? Have you ever tried to brush the teeth of a dementia resident who will not open their mouth?
Impaired skin integrity? Skin ages. Skin becomes thinner as we age. Is this preventable? Should I invest in Oil of Olay for every resident, lavishing them with two bottles per day to avoid prosecution?
I think there must be a line drawn somewhere to protect the caregivers. Definitions of abuse” need to black and white. What does the word “preventable” mean? How do I prevent disease? My degree is in Clinical Psychology, not Medical Research. I do not know about gene mutations or stem cell research or even how to change the oil in my car. Yet, I am being held accountable by this TV law firm for preventable disease?
Fearfully, I looked up the definition of “elder abuse”. This is what I found:
“Elder mistreatment (i.e. abuse and neglect) is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or to protect the elder from harm.”4 source:http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.aspx#problem.
“Satisfy basic needs.” Who defines basic needs? Hopefully not the screaming pitchman from the TV commercial.
“Unintentional but intentional?” What does that even mean????? Sighs. I think I am doomed.
“Protect from harm?” Does that mean preventable disease? Should I go back to school and obtain a degree in Infectious Disease?
Do you feel my fear? The profession I love has the potential to intentionally, yet unintentionally send me to prison due to unpreventable, yet preventable causes related to the aging process whereas meeting basic needs has caused unforeseen unintentional. Huh? I am so confused.
I am a simple administrator caring for dementia patients in a controlled environment. I treat them with kindness, respect and dignity. I love them as if they were my family. I demand the people I employ to do the same. The TV lawyer is instilling fear because he/she knows this is a cash cow waiting to be milked. Everyone loves to win the lottery, at the unintentional, yet intentional cost that is not preventable if it was not prevented in the first place. Follow me?
Again, know that I am against any form of abuse of any person or anything for that matter. I am an advocate for every living creature. Yet, I am a sitting duck waiting for my orange is the new black” jumpsuit. Why? Because I work in an unpreventable industry that should prevent the preventable from happening.
My football game is over. I think the Redskins won. My nachos have been consumed by my dog. My diet coke has been chugged by another dog. The TV is blaring. I need to get the oil changed in my jeep. I need a degree in microbiology. I need a degree in infectious disease. I wonder what jail they send long-term administrators to? Do they serve nachos in jail, ever?
C.S. Lewis said “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” Such a profound thought.